OBJECTIVE: The relationship between intraluminal thrombus (ILT) and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) growth and rupture risk remains ambiguous. Studies have shown a limited effect of antiplatelet therapy on ILT size, whereas the impact of anticoagulant therapy on ILT is unresolved. This study aims to evaluate an association between antithrombotic therapy and ILT size assessed with three-dimensional contrast-enhanced ultrasound (3D-CEUS) examination in a cohort of patients with AAA.
METHODS: In a cross-sectional study, 309 patients with small AAAs were examined with 3D-CEUS. Patients were divided into three groups based on prescribed antithrombotic therapy: anticoagulant (n = 36), antiplatelet (n = 222), and no antithrombotic therapy (n = 51). Patient ILT size was calculated in volume and thickness and compared between the three groups.
RESULTS: Patients on anticoagulants had a significantly lower estimated marginal mean ILT volume of 16 mL (standard error [SE], ±3.2) compared with 28 mL (SE, ±2.7) in the no antithrombotic group and 30 mL (SE, ±1.3) in the antiplatelet group when adjusting for AAA volume (P < .001) and comorbidities (P < .001). In addition, patients on anticoagulant therapy had significantly lower estimated marginal mean ILT thickness of 10 mm (SE, ±1.1) compared with 13 mm (SE, ±0.9) in the no antithrombotic group of and 13mm (SE, ±0.4) in the antiplatelet group when adjusting for AAA diameter (P = .03) and comorbidities (P = .035).
CONCLUSIONS: A 3D-CEUS examination is applicable for ILT assessment and demonstrates that patients with AAA on anticoagulant therapy have lower ILT thickness and volume than patients with AAA on antiplatelet therapy and those without antithrombotic therapy. Causality between anticoagulants and ILT size, and extrapolation to AAA growth and rupture risk, is unknown and merits further investigations, to further nuance US-based AAA surveillance strategy.